Nationwide showcase of local flavors cuts food costs, enchants diners, and benefits farmers
Palo Alto, Calif. (September 9, 2008)—If you want local food, sometimes you have to go get it yourself. That’s what five chefs from Bon Appétit Management Company will do to prepare for the company’s fourth annual and largest ever Eat Local Challenge on September 30. Before most chefs have even put in their morning orders, Kimberly Triplett, Bill Griffin, Donna Dhue Wilkins, Michael Levins, and Ty Paup from Bon Appétit at Goucher College and Gallaudet University will see the sun rise over Chesapeake Bay as they gather the fat oysters for which the region is known. By mid-morning the fishing will be done, but for these chefs, the day is just beginning as they return to their kitchens to prepare traditional oyster po’ boys, rich, velvety oyster stew, and savory oyster stuffing to go with roasted local chickens. Why go to such lengths to obtain local food? On Eat Local Challenge Day, every chef in the company’s 400 restaurants and cafes around the country is tasked with creating a 100% local meal.
In Austin, the regional specialty for the day may be grass-fed beef fajitas, or in Minneapolis, wild rice soup with pasture-raised chicken. But whether in Texas, Minnesota, or Washington DC, chefs are required to create their local meals using only ingredients produced within 150 miles of the cafes. Salt is the only exception.
As anyone who has ever tasted a just-picked Maine blueberry, sweet Dungeness crab from the Pacific Ocean, or an ear of corn picked within hours of that first crisp bite knows, local, in-season foods are packed with flavor and texture, and offer variety and nutrition that you won’t often find in a typical grocery store.
You might expect that such culinary perfection comes at a steep cost. Here’s a surprising twist in a shaky food economy: local, in season foods frequently cost less simply because seasonal foods are abundant and local foods don’t incur expensive shipping costs from fuel surcharges. Even as the local food movement hits its stride with eco-gastronomists, health advocates, and environmentalists, the average food item still travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. As fuel costs rise, this system will become unsustainable economically as well as environmentally. The game has changed, and smart businesses and consumers are responding with their forks.
“The American food system today faces unprecedented challenges” says Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President of Bon Appétit Management Company. “High oil prices threaten farmers’ already slim profit margins. Consumers’ grocery bills have skyrocketed. Food safety risks are increasing. The over 220,000 meals served during our Eat Local Challenge will demonstrate the possibility of significant change by illustrating the economic, environmental and health benefits of eating local foods. ”
For consumers, as well as businesses like Bon Appétit Management Company, taste and economics aren’t the only reasons to buy locally. Add recent food safety scares, the importance of keeping money in the local community, and preserving rural farmland, and the reasons for buying local just keep stacking up.
A company like Bon Appétit has significant buying power. When that buying power is put to work purchasing direct from producers, it has a real impact on the livelihoods of local farmers and the economic health of the community. “We are actively working to create an efficient, regional food web that works to everyone’s advantage. Our chefs collaborate with other chefs in the region when ordering from small farmers, and the farmers often work cooperatively on deliveries, saving energy—both human and fossil-based.” says Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit Management Company.
Bon Appétit doesn’t just take the Eat Local Challenge once a year. Every day, in every café, through the company’s Farm to Fork program, a minimum of 20% of the foods that hit the plate must be sourced from within 150 miles. Many of the cafes consistently exceed this goal.
Bon Appétit Management Company’s Eat Local Challenge shows that consumers, businesses, and farmers can work together to develop a viable local and regional food system. It makes economic and environmental sense. And if that doesn’t move you, perhaps a taste of a juicy Gravenstein apple from northern California or a stew made of pasture-raised heritage pork from Minnesota will.
About Bon Appétit Management Company
Bon Appétit Management Co. is an onsite restaurant company offering full food service management to corporations, universities and specialty venues. Bon Appétit is committed to sourcing sustainable, local foods for all its cafés throughout the country. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs with Environmental Defense, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the Humane Society of the United States, and other leading conservation organizations. Based in Palo Alto, CA, Bon Appétit has more than 400 cafés in 29 states, including Oracle Corporation, American University and the Getty Center. (www.bamco.com)